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Best and Worst States to Work in America 2022

This map tells a story of growing inequality in our country−and of hope for the future.

The past few years have brought daunting challenges to workers: real wages declining in the face of historic inflation; COVID-19 and climate hazards making conditions more perilous; women losing fundamental rights to make decisions about their lives.

Even as the situation grows more dire, the hope for federal action fades, as Congress remains deadlocked.

However, a bright spot has emerged on the horizon, as workers are demanding, and winning, change. They’re organizing to form new unions, elect more helpful lawmakers, and press for changes in state laws. Workers and advocates are the reason that the best states are getting better; and they are the hope for the worst states.

Find out more in our report  |  View the map for working women

 

Methodology

All data is based on laws and policies in effect as of July 1, 2022.

The index is based on state policies in three dimensions: wages (40% of overall score); worker protections (35% of overall score); and rights to organize (25% of overall score).

View full spreadsheets of the data.

Wage policies

Do workers earn a wage that is sufficient to provide for them and their families? Among the data points in this dimension:

  • The ratio of the state minimum wage in relation to the cost of living for a family of four with one wage earner. The goal wage is from the MIT Living Wage Calculator.
  • The ratio of a tipped minimum wage to the state minimum wage.
  • Whether or not the state allows localities to implement their own minimum wage laws.
  • Whether or not states include farmworkers in their minimum wages.
  • How well average unemployment payments for minimum wage workers cover cost of living for a family of four.

Worker protection policies

This dimension considers the quality of life for workers, especially women and parents. Among the data points in this dimension:

  • Protections for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding.
  • Mandates for equal pay, pay secrecy, and no salary history.
  • Mandates for paid sick and family leave.
  • Protections around flexible scheduling, reporting pay, split shift pay, advance notice.
  • Protections against sexual harassment.
  • Protections for federally excluded workers, including extending workers’ compensation to farmworkers and extending workers’ rights and protections to domestic workers.
  • Heat safety standard for outdoor workers.

Right to organize policies

This dimension asks whether workers have the right to organize and sustain a trade union. Among the data points in this dimension:

  • State so-called “right-to-work” law (which suppresses union activity).
  • Public employees’ rights to collective bargaining and wage negotiation (teachers used as a case study).
  • Mandates for project labor agreements with state government.
  • Mandates for protection against retaliation.
  • Statewide policies on collective bargaining for public workers.
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